January 29th, 2010
E-informing the Public is a three year research project (2009-2012) funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Digital government initiatives have made a large amount of government-produced information available in digital format for public access and use. However, making it physically accessible does not ensure that members of the public are easily able to find, process and make use of online government information suited to their specific needs and interests. Because effective communication is predicated on shared understanding between information producers and consumers, access to government publications can be facilitated through an understanding of document genres.
The E-informing the Public project investigates the information interactions between Canadian federal government information producers and public information consumers from the perspective of genre theory. Its aim is twofold: to inform the design of strategies and tools to facilitate access to and use of digital government information, and to validate and extend to the public domain a novel approach to information retrieval based on the relationships between tasks and genres that emerged from previous work done by the PI, Luanne Freund.
The research looks at a number of interconnected research questions.
- How is online government information produced and made available to the public?
- How do members of the public find and use online government information in their daily lives?
- What is the role of genre in the information interaction between the government and the public?
Findings will have direct implications for government information producers with respect to the design of online government documents and websites, metadata standards, and the design of specialized search systems for government information. On a broader level, this work will contribute to a growing body of theoretical and empirical research on digital genres and contextual models of information retrieval.